Staff notes: Officers directed to delete all emails to avoid FOI law and limit server space

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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Staff notes from a North Little Rock Police Department meeting reveal a request for officers to delete their emails.

Saying, “This is very important due to FOI concerns.”

Lieutenants attending the meeting wrote out the directives from Assistant Chief Tracy Roulston last October to give to their officers.

“It’s concerning, but unfortunately it’s not surprising,” Professor Steinbuch said.

Law professor Robert Steinbuch at UA Little Rock is an expert in f-o-i law.

“It’s still incredibly bad behavior by government officials to destroy records for the purpose of avoiding transparency to the public,” he said after reading the staff notes from NLRPD.

According to Arkansas Code, tampering with a public record, which includes erasing, removing or concealing the record, is a class D felony.

In the staff notes, the assistant chief appears to encourage hiding any important emails saying to drag it to their desktop and then delete it from Outlook.

“The implication is that if it’s on your desktop you don’t need to turn it over. That’s false,” Steinbuch said.

Another note mentions creating files to save the emails to a hard drive because they won’t be subject to FOI.

“Where a record resides has nothing to do with whether it’s a governmental record,” he said.

Additional staff notes from April of 2019, brought up deleting emails again, but instead for the server space.

NLRPD say they’re not intentionally trying to withhold information and part of the reason for deleting these emails is for the server space.

They said in these staff meetings they wanted everyone to be aware that their emails are subject to FOI so they should delete anything personal.

If it’s a part of an investigation they say it’s been copied and saved.

It’s unclear if the department follows any record retention regulations.

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